Power Hour Meal Prep

Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Meals from Aldi for Just $50

updated Jun 25, 2021
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Credit: Patty Catalano

The first thing to go when quarantine began was my meal prep routine. I focused my energy on triaging the contents of my refrigerator, assuming it would be easy to grab whatever foods were available since the family was now home all day. While we didn’t waste food, I did waste time cooking and doing dishes. Now that we’ve adjusted to this new normal managing our food use, I feel confident in jumping back into meal planning with a renewed focus on our budget.

Aldi is my favorite shop for budget-friendly foods. The small markets are often less busy than bigger stores — a plus when safety and social distancing are important. Aldi carries both name brands and store-brand dupes of popular prepared foods at a fraction of the cost. The selection is more limited, so flexibility in the grocery list is of the utmost importance. Go into your local Aldi knowing that you may have to make some minor adjustments in order to save some serious coin.

In this week’s Power Hour I’m focused on planning and prepping a week of meals for my family of four, all for just $50 from Aldi. Ready to see how it’s done? Let’s get started.

Credit: Images: Patty Catalano; Design: The Kitchn

My Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: Filling, ready-to-eat breakfasts to keep us from scavenging the kids’ box of cereal.
  • Lunch: Easy-to-reheat lunches that last all week long.
  • Dinner: Family-friendly foods that are easy to meal prep or put together on the fly.
  • Nutritional Goals: This week’s meal plan focuses on hitting a budget goal, not a nutritional one (not that those have to be mutually exclusive!). The ingredients for this week’s meals were all purchased at Aldi for just $50.

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: 2 adults and 2 children for dinner, and 2 adults for breakfast and lunch.
  • Prep Time: About 2 hours
  • Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required: Moderate. Most dinner items are prepared and ready for the stovetop or oven.

My Meal Plan

Breakfasts

Lunches

Dinners

Credit: Patty Catalano

My Shopping List

These are the ingredients I bought or used for this week’s menu. Familiarity with Aldi’s usual offerings is helpful in choosing recipes to plan for the week because the store’s inventory is more limited than other supermarkets. Still, it’s helpful to anticipate that some items on your list might not be available or exact. If this happens, make a substitution with items that are available — sometimes this is how you find a favorite new buy!

In order to stay within a budget of $50, I shopped my pantry, fridge, freezer, and patio herb garden before heading to the store. Staple ingredients like oil, butter, salt, pepper, and spices are not included in this list. Keep your eyes open for budget-friendly alternatives. For this plan I picked up a mix of frozen California blend vegetables instead of buying the individual fresh produce items to save money and prep time. I also compared the unit prices for more expensive ingredients like shredded cheese vs. block cheese and fresh chicken breasts vs. frozen chicken breasts. Thaw chicken before you begin meal prep.

  • Produce: 1 avocado, 1 bag spinach, 1 bag sweet potatoes
  • Bakery: 1 package ciabatta sandwich rolls, 1 package naan flatbread
  • Meat: 1 package pepperoni, 1 pound Italian sausage
  • Dairy: 1 (8-ounce) block cheddar cheese, 1 (8-ounce) block mozzarella cheese, 1 (12-ounce) package shredded Mexican-style cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1 dozen eggs, milk
  • Dry Goods: 1 bottle Buffalo hot sauce, 1 bottle creamy Caesar dressing, 1 package corn tortillas, rice, 1 pound rotini pasta, 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, 1 (15-ounce) can refried beans, 1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo, 1 jar marinara sauce, 1 (15-ounce) jar tikka masala sauce
  • Frozen: 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen corn, 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen peas, 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen California medley, 1 (3-pound) bag frozen chicken breasts
Credit: The Kitchn

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

  1. Boil water and heat the oven: An easy first step for meal prep is to bring a large pot of water to a boil and turn the oven on to 400°F.
  2. Bake sweet potatoes: Scrub the potatoes, pierce them with a sharp knife, and place in the oven. Bake until a knife can slide easily into the center of the potato, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once cooled store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  3. Cook Buffalo chicken: Meanwhile, simmer chicken breasts directly in 1/2 cup of hot sauce and butter (ghee, or even vegetable oil are good substitutes) over medium-low heat until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Shred with two forks, toss in the spicy cooking liquid, and refrigerate in an airtight container.
  4. Brown sausage: Sauté the onion (if using), then brown the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Add the spinach, toss until wilted, then spread the mixture in the bottom of a baking dish. Reserve the remaining spinach for salads during the week.
  5. Bake frittata: Whisk the eggs and milk together and pour over sausage and spinach mixture. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. If the sweet potatoes aren’t tender yet, just leave them in at this lower temperature until done.
  6. Cook pasta: Once the water comes to a rolling boil, season with salt and add 1 pound dried rotini pasta. Cook for 2 minutes less than suggested on the package. Drain.
  7. Make black bean spread: Prepare the black bean spread for the Southwestern Pizza, mixing the black beans, chipotle chile en adobo, chili, cumin, salt, and olive oil together in a small container, and then refrigerate.
  8. Assemble pasta bake: Follow this recipe to assemble the pasta bake. Quarter the pepperoni slices, if large.
  9. Assemble breakfast sandwiches: Once the frittata is done, use a round cutter or a knife to cut individual servings to fit the bread. Slice cheese and layer the sandwich as instructed in this recipe. Wrap in foil and refrigerate or freeze.
Credit: The Kitchn

Breakfast

Unwrap the breakfast sandwich(es) and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Microwave on HIGH for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until the cheese melts and the frittata is heated through. Alternatively, bake at 325°F for 15 to 20 minutes if refrigerated or 30 to 40 minutes, if frozen.

Lunch

Prepare lunch in minutes by splitting a baked potato in half and topping with shredded Buffalo chicken. Microwave on HIGH until hot, 2 to 4 minutes. Top with a drizzle of creamy Caesar dressing.

Dinner

Monday, Refried Bean and Cheese Tostadas: Shallow-fry corn tortillas in vegetable oil until crisp and golden. Remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and season with kosher salt. Top each tostada with refried beans and shredded Mexican cheese blend, then bake at 450°F until the cheese melts.

Tuesday, 3-Ingredient Baked Caesar Chicken and salad: Dinner doesn’t get much easier than this! Pound chicken breasts to an even thickness. Add creamy Caesar dressing to a broiler-safe baking dish, add the chicken, and turn to coat. Bake for 20 to 25 at 400°F until the chicken is done, then sprinkle the top of the chicken with Parmesan cheese. Turn the broiler to HIGH and broil until the cheese bubbles and browns. Serve with a spinach salad.

Wednesday, Southwestern Pizza with Black Beans and Corn: Using naan as a substitute for pizza dough is one of my favorite weeknight shortcuts. Spread the black bean mixture over the naan and top with corn. If you have tomatoes or chunky salsa, add that here too; if not, this pizza will still have tons of flavor. Sprinkle shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses over the top, then bake at 400°F for 5 to 10 minutes.

Thursday, Easy Vegetarian Tikka Masala: The tikka masala sauce is one of my favorite Aldi finds. Cook the rice. Meanwhile, thaw the California blend vegetables and frozen peas and discard excess moisture. Heat the tikka masala sauce in a saucepan then add the thawed vegetables. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and cook until the vegetables are heated through, 5 to 7 minutes.

Friday, Pepperoni Pizza Baked Pasta: Bake at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through.

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Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.